Sunday, February 28, 2010

Can't believe it has been a week since my last blog. It has been a busy week. Two new clients and one of those weeks when supervision, staff meeting, and a training all fall in the same week. Work aside, it has been a good week here on the farm. Can't wait to get chickens so I can say farm without hesitating.

Started out the week getting 20 more bales of hay but by the end of the week there were a couple spots of green in the pasture. I tried to get the sheep to walk with me, like the last time the far end of the pasture was uncovered, but this time I had to entice most of them with a pocket of grain. When Beau and I went out with skis last week I stayed on top of the snow but Beau sunk deeper. Now every one of Beau's footprints has a few hints of green. It was funny watching Sarah go from footprint to footprint nibbling.

I have always loved baby pictures with the babies wearing their food (usually spaghetti sauce or chocolate). Check out Annie and Charlotte.

All winter the sheep and Beau have been so hungry and before I can get the hay to the troughs they are grabbing it and getting it all over. Charlotte wears the most. I constantly yell at them about the condition of their fleeces but then the next time I see them they are clean again (cleaned by a friend needing a between -meals snack).

Some people make their sheep wear coats to keep them clean. Can you imagine. I wonder if those people have baby pictures with food faces.

I may be whistling another tune when I go to shear them in the next few weeks. How much debris will I find down deep? It seems like I can see down deep but who knows. It will be nice to make it through the year cycle and know what to expect for a change. Speaking of shearing, we got a call first thing this morning from a sheep shearer that shears a friend's sheep. He wanted to know if I wanted to get our sheep sheared before or after theirs. He even has a shearing partner that can blade shear. So, Karen, we now have a back-up plan. I do still want to try first but it never hurts to have a back-up plan.

On to this week. Hoping the rest of the snow finally melts, hoping it doesn't get too muddy, and hoping to get hooves trimmed.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The end of the "Winter Games" (I hope)

The last two events were held today. I got the gold in cross country skiing even though Beau tried to get on the back of the skis. I guess I forgot to tell him it was a single event. He came along though so I will give him the silver. The sheep just watched.

The figure skating in the hot tub had to be canceled because the ice surface was on at least a 45 degree angle. The beautiful 7" thick ice slab got hung up on the fence. Oh well it would have been difficult to get everyone up the steps.

I took all the animals out for a jaunt mainly for exercise since there is still very little area without snow. With a temporary fence across the lower driveway, they headed toward the house. The best grass along the drive is closer to the pasture than the house but sheep and llamas think the grass ahead is better (one of those " the grass is greener on the other side of the fence" things). That is when Beau and the sheep decided to enter the last event of the winter games. I wanted to cancel it because of the snow conditions but they insisted.

It is called "maneuvering the cattle guard". I was hoping and expecting they would all go around it but there was snow on either side, though very slight. Beau, with his advantage of longer legs and a previous practice a few days earlier, went first. On his first approach he went around the guard but way wide. Amelia stayed close, stayed calm, and knew right where she was going in both directions and won the gold for sure. Annie hugged the inside of the fence on the edge of the guard, Hildegard and Mirabai two hopped it somehow but didn't get hurt and Sarah leapt the whole guard. Charlotte was the most confused and hesitant. She eventually took Annie's route. On the return some took a better route. With combined totals Amelia took the gold, Sarah the silver and Beau the bronze. No one else was close.

Now I sit on my west deck in the sun pretending it is spring. Two days ago I shoveled a foot of snow off this deck because it was really depressing me and I knew it wouldn't melt for weeks. Now it is a delight to sit here and listen to the birds and the cows and just relax in the late afternoon sun while Beau and the girls munch hay back in the barn.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

To shear or not too shear-- that is the question

Actually the question is-- should I be the one holding the blade shears. Most sheep need to be sheared once a year. Some are sheared twice a year and some hair sheep actually shed (sort of).

The time to shear will soon be upon us (usually March or April) so early this week Karen and I drove an hour and a half to see Kevin Ford ( considered by most to be the best blade shearer in the U.S.) shear sheep. We went with snow predicted and came back in a snow squall so I want to give Karen an award (she has goats that don't even need shearing). Actually, Karen and I are,were,are,were,.... going to shear my 6 sheep and llama. Originally (way back) I had planned to but then I saw what it entailed. As I started looking for options Karen and I started helping each other with our animals and Karen told me we could do. So I started believing her and the next logical step was to take her to see a master demonstrate. Karen took an incredible video of it on her camera in a dark barn ( you can view it if you go to her blog under blogs I follow). HIMJ "Shearing a Sheep"

Karen was a professional hairdresser for part of her work life so maybe that was part of what gave me optimism but when I recall Karen, my sister Gail (a nurse), and I trying to draw goat blood at Karen's house maybe I should come to realize IT JUST ISN'T THE SAME.

I think I am back to looking at the options.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Still cold, dreary, and snow cover everywhere. I decided today to let the sheep and Beau out to nibble any tiny patches of grass they could find. After digging out in front of the lower gate, I opened one side of the gate and called to Beau and the sheep to come on down. Beau hesitated but did come down and out and found a few nibbles along the driveway I hadn't noticed. The sheep on the other hand just looked at me and stayed where they were. I picked up a small handful of grass but still no dice.

On Valentines Day, four days ago, Lyndy was here and we walked to a neighbors house to go cross country skiing. As we started down the driveway all seven animals came down to the lower gate and wanted to go with us. They had to go through deep snow to get to the gate and it was funny to watch how each began the journey. It reminded me of being on the beach and watching different peoples' method of talking themselves into making their way into the icy water. Amelia hesitated the longest and Sarah and Annie were like the fearless young kids that run from their beach blankets high on the sand and never stop until they dive through the incoming waves. Unfortunately, I could not let them out then and they had to turn around and go back through the deep snow with nothing for their efforts.

Did they remember? Sheep are suppose to be dumb. What would it have taken to get them to come down today? I was thinking that they just didn't see anything worth the trip. I didn't have any food in my hand. But, just a few weeks ago they left hay in the barn and followed me across the pasture not seeing the small patches of green until we were upon them. So what was going through those little minds I wonder. They could see Beau was grazing on something -- was it not enough?, was the trek on Valentines Day more difficult than I realized? There were 6 sheep up there and if any one of them had made the decision to come down I am sure they all would have but one by one they all went from the main gate back to the barn.

I know if I had opened the main gate they would have rushed out but I don't want them to get used to going out that way because then it will be even harder for me to enter through that gate when they all come down to greet me. As it is Mira is still acting like a goat trying to climb the gate and the others crowd it trying to get out.

After 9 months of shepherding, my friends, I declare sheep are not dumb; in fact I believe they contemplate and I will continue my efforts to prove it to the world or at least my sceptical neighbors.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


ANOTHER good use for snow.

Then the fleece goes in.

"What is it?"

Oops skipped a few steps. Oh well, Happy Valentine Day.

A good use for Kool Aid too.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Winter Games

In honor of the Winter Olympics starting I thought I would tell you about our winter games. I think the animals created these games out of shear enjoyment of the elements. The circle I think is a variation of "Duck, duck, goose" remember that one. I used to love that game. We played it at Briarcliff elementary. Wonder what the girls and Beau call their version. Haven't seen them play this one but I have seen Beau play the next one which I call "Barn and Daggers". He isn't very good at it but maybe I don't know the rules. I just assumed that you were suppose to try to duck under the daggers without knocking them down. Maybe you are suppose to knock them down which is what Beau did just after this picture.

Then there are the ones I have been practicing. One you use a sled and some wood that has been cut and split just for this purpose. You load the sled with the wood from one pile and pull it to the bottom of the front steps trudging through still deep snow that is crusty on top. Then you tie the sled, (or it slides away) unload the sled, carry the wood up sometimes slippery steps and put it in another pile. It is difficult getting the wood to not fall off at the beginning or end of the run with the slope of terrain. I have been practicing and getting pretty good but just when I thought I could go for the gold--I dropped the largest log on my thigh going up the stairs and it bounced and landed on my foot.

My favorite is one I created at the recycle center yesterday. At our recycle center you put your glass in a huge train-car-size-bin. There are 4 wooden steps up to the top so you can see where you are putting the bottles. With all the snow we have been having, the bin now has a hill of snow in it. So here is the game. You toss the bottles trying to land them on the snow where they can slide and see how far you can get them to slide. Beer bottles work best but the trick is to get them to land on their side in an area of slope with no bottles to block their decent. Fridays are not an attendant day so not as many people come because then you have to do all your stuff by yourself. I don't mind when I can make up winter games.

Friday, February 12, 2010


"No problem is too big to handle if we just stop and look deep within that special place... the refrigerator." Cathy Guisewite

I will admit that I am a person that uses food to solve problems --- My question is "does everyone" or is this something I should be working on? I think the part I really need to work on first is not trying to fix, what I perceive are other's, problems by feeding them. (especially when I most often use not so healthy food).

A few days ago when I had cabin fever and assumed the sheep and Beau had barn fever I was going to take us all for a walk trying to be good and use exercise instead of food to solve the problem. Unfortunately, the wind created a scene like the pictures you see of the snow blowing across the Artic ice and no one was interested including me. So I did the next best thing --- I offered food. I usually give a few handfuls of grain for a treat but I felt something more exciting was called for so I offered slices of apple. Hildegard was vaguely interested all the others sniffed and turned up their noses and this was a good MacIntosh.

On the sheep forum last fall, everyone was talking about what their sheep ate and how they cleaned up the last of the garden harvest. Not my sheep. They are so picky. What is really funny is how different they all are. Beau will eat slices of peach or apple occasionally, and the other day tried water cress. None of the others would consider a nibble and when I offered it to Beau again he declined. We have water cress growing in our spring and one of my neighbors feeds his to his chickens and calls it chicken salad. I guess it isn't llama salad or sheep salad.

Most of the sheep will eat pumpkin seed but not Hildegard and not Beau. Sarah and Annie love it when I bash a pumpkin open and they will eat the pulp, stringy stuff, and seed. The others like their pumpkin seed from the health food store. (good for natural deworming)

The other day I was eating a dill pickle and offered it around. I remembered when my brother Bill offered one to my daughter Wednesday when she was very young. He wanted to see her make a face but, to his surprise and mine, she loved it. So does Annie! Sarah nibbled a bit and the rest looked at me like "what are you thinking?" but Annie chomped and couldn't get enough.

Usually they give me that "what's wrong with grain" look--we want grain. I give them a great natural mineral mix that smell like seaweed. Hay has good nutrition and grain in moderation is O.K. so why do I think they need fruit and vegetables? It has to be the mental aspects of food for me but why must I impose that on them?

Can't wait for the pasture to be clear of snow again but that isn't going to be anytime soon and we might get --You Guested It-- more snow Monday.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Waiting for the plow

Only 4 or 5 inches combined snow fall in the last 2 days! The sky is blue and we can see Big and Little House Mountains for the first time in a few days. Today might be the day to go to town IF the plow comes to do the road. Two inches fell last night and the wind came up blowing extra snow on our road so it is a little slippery. Blue did her job and the driveway is O.K. but the county has an abundance of narrow twisting and winding roads so it's not easy. All in all Rockbridge County does a great job with the roads.

I took a shower and but my town clothes on so I am ready to GO. I was thinking about the expression "a change of scenery" As you can see from the picture I don't need a change of scenery but I do need to get out. But if I don't, there aren't too many places I'd rather be stuck.

I can always go for a walk. Maybe I will even let Beau and the sheep out for a walk on the driveway. Mirabai has been acting like a goat the last few days. She comes down to the gate and puts her front feet up on the wire grids. Sarah has been chewing on the wire. I guess they too are trying to escape and get a "change of scenery". When there was no snow on the pasture and Beau and the girls would graze all day, I used to think that would be boring eating grass all day but NOW that seems like a wonderful thing to do (with short breaks for a nap or taking in the BEAUTIFUL scenery). Staying in the barn or walking a few short snow covered trails is what seems boring now.

Still no plow-- guess I will go put on some farm clothes and go talk to the animals and see if they want to come out for a walk. The day is still early, the sun is out, and I remain hopeful that later I will get a "change of scenery".

Monday, February 8, 2010

Somedays are work most days are fun

Today was work. We ran out of wood on the porch so I had to shovel off the avalanche on the front steps to be able to get the wood up. Then I had to get the sled down from the rafter in the garage (tell me what is the sled doing up in the rafters). Actually, I think it was John's way of telling the snow to go away. Before all of this, I tromped through deep snow to check the propane level and then called to get them to bring us more. They actually came out a few hours later. Must have been someone out our way that was in real need. So I talked to the Propane guy about keeping animals fed (he has 70 head of cattle and some will be calving in a few days.)

A friend of ours says, "it take a half day to do anything". Today I really felt this. Lots of trudging through snow lugging water, feeding hay, and more I have forgotten.

But that is just today-- tomorrow Ben, who turned 4 today, is coming over. He can help me feed the flock and maybe we will go sledding. It is suppose to snow tomorrow but just 3"-6" or maybe 10". Really - I am not kidding.

Beau and the girls were silly in the snow yesterday. Chasing each other and doing their bounce thing where they spring off of all 4 feet at the same time. Also doing their play head butting. I guess they felt they had to do something to break the boredom. I built them the snow sheep but couldn't get inspired to make a snow llama. Maybe Ben will help me tomorrow. I wanted to get the other sheep in the picture too but they have not yet noticed the new sheep or at least not to my knowledge. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Blue to the Rescue

It was looking like this weekend might be a rerun. Snow for sure- it has already started and we could get another 12" BUT we now have a beautiful blue 1972 3 cylinder Ford tractor with a snow scraper and chains. If this works I might still be watching an old classic with my favorite parts. Another inch and a half and John can put it to the test.

We debated for a long time whether we should buy a tractor. John had looked at this tractor last summer and we went back and forth for a long time before we decided it wasn't the right time. But now, with the third snow storm of the winter upon us and another likely "they say", we decided the time was right. John found the piece of paper with the guys number on it and the guy still had the tractor so we took this as an omen that we should go for it.

Charlie came over to check her out (are tractors female as boats are?). He gave me a tractor lesson and now I can go forward in many gears, go in reverse, and tell if the air filter needs changing. Still no chickens but I am really beginning to feel like a farmer now. What do you think Karen? Seems like the tractor needs a name- I suggested "Old Blue" but John says maybe something a little more exciting. Any ideas?

Now that we have the tractor we are starting to think of things we can do besides snow moving- like dirt moving. It is time to start thinking Spring even while enjoying the beauty of winter. At least I should order some seed. As soon as the snow goes and maybe before it will be time to plant greens.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Old Classic or a Rerun

It is Groundhog day as I return from my sisters' trip to Alabama to MORE snow. My sister Judy introduced me to the classic movie Groundhog Day staring Bill Murray many years ago.
She told me that some people have a tradition of watching the movie every year on Groundhog day. There are many classic movies that are seen over and over on a particular day or time of the year. So I ask myself if this returning to snow is like a classic movie being seen again, or a rerun?

White as far as the eye can see, frozen water in the sheep's water buckets [except the blue 9 quart bucket with the electrical plug (must be the middle of the movie)], and alot of shoveling. John did all the shoveling alone this time since most of it arrived after I left. It was snowing today too but I laid down to take a little nap and woke up hours later when John was finished.

I am very tired but is it because I just got back from my sisters' trip and we never get much sleep because we are having too much fun OR is it that snow makes everything more difficult and just thinking about all that needs to be done is tiring (especially after a vacation)?

A rerun is a scenario that gets repeated as well. I think the difference in viewing a classic and a rerun is the emotions that go along with each. The emotions with the rerun are something like "darn I've seen this- here we go again" and those associated with the classic are more like " oh, I love this part."

So which is it? I do love snow; it makes everything so bright and beautiful and the quiet is amazing. The sheep and Beau don't seem to mind as long as there is hay to eat and water that isn't frozen and even the frozen water doesn't seem to be a problem since they like to eat snow.

Punxsutawney Phil says, "six more weeks of winter". I think I will go with the classic but not be too vocal in public.